Dedicated to my cousin Janet Morris (née Lerwill), 1931-2000, former head teacher at Billesley School. She was the family inspiration to record our history.

I would love to hear from others with knowledge of this area. Please
mail me, John Lerwill.

Return to my Birmingham Homepage.

Last updated: Jan 2, 2018


This area is said to have received the presence of King Alfred.

These pages are about the 'Swanshurst Quarter', which included areas that have long been known as Billesley, Swanshurst, Sarehole and Yardley Wood, amongst others, once the north-west boundary of Warwickshire, because on its west lay Worcestershire, since beaten back by the expansion of Birmingham. Swanshurst Quarter was an administrative division, not a natural entity. It was that part of the ancient manor and parish of Yardley which lay between Stratford Road and the south-western boundary, 3.6 miles from N to S and 2.4 miles across at its greatest. Established by the C 18th as one of the four areas of the Civil Parish for poor rate collection and highway maintenance, it ceased to exist when Yardley Rural District joined the City of Birmingham in 1912.

The original work was undertaken and written by John Morris Jones, former Headmaster of George Dixon Junior School, during the period 1960 - 1980, in which he covered almost every district of the City of Birmingham. Between Autumn 1988 & Spring 1998, Clinton Davies (a school librarian) re-presented this work – without changing the main detail – and uploaded it to a website that is no longer available (since 2016). These pages are a large extract and re-presentation of that work, with some additional information.


  • Early Settlement
  • Saxon Beginnings
  • Boundaries
  • Moats and Earthworks
  • Water Mills
  • Ancient Roads
  • Medieval Times
  • Families
  • Tudor Times to Victorian Times
  • Urbanisation
  • Public Transport
  • Between the World Wars
  • Anecdotes
    Further information concerning tythe allocations and maps of 1847 and 1848 – but covering all Yardley - can be seen here.

    Click here for an annotated 1887 map, useful for comparing with the above history and anecdotes pages.

    Other History

    In 1911 the Birmingham Aero Club started flying from Billesley Farm and remained there until World War One. In August, 1913, Mr. Edwin Prosser of Wake Green Road, having been taught aeronautics at Hendon, London, in the previous 12 months, flew from Billesley to Stratford-on-Avon (24 miles) in 18 minutes, in a biplane. His plane rose to 5,000 feet on the return journey. The Midland School of Flying was also at Billesley from 1915. Alan Cobham's Flying Circus was at Billesley offering 'joy riding' in October 1920.

    Barbara Cartland's family lived in next door Kings Heath! As Kings Heath expanded in the early 1800s, it was settled by people such as William Hamper at the Grange and John Cartland at the Priory. They were both sons of Birmingham brass-founders attracted by its healthy air, the fine views to the south and its convenience to the town. Such new settlers began the growth of Kings Heath as a residential district. It was not long before Joseph Chamberlain came to Highbury.

    The comedian Tony Hancock was brought up in Kings Heath as was 1970s/80s rally champion Russell Brookes, and comedian Jasper Carrott (actually Bob Davies!) was brought up in Acocks Green (nr. Hall Green). Nigel Mansell (Formula One racing driver and World Champion) lived for a time in Hall Green. Peter Aldis (a member of Aston Villa's 1957 FA cup-winning team) was from Kings Heath. Much further back, Edwin T. Prosser (an early aviator) was brought up in Moseley in the very early 1900s.

    A son of Billesley:

  • Whilst doing some sporting research, I happened to find some summer editions of the Sports Argus of 1903. Well, as we all know, cycling was a hugely popular activity back then, and in those editions of the S.A. was a weekly guide for good cycling outings into the countryside around Brum - and North Wales too, for that matter. The articles are charming, and stretch the imagination to see how things were back then. Amidst those articles, there was one on a trip through Sarehole, which went on to Shirley, Solihull, Kenilworth etc. The article starts:

    "We have only to reach Moseley Village, turn left, and go straight past the well-known gardens ere we arrive in the country [ - just forget about all the housing that exists there now! - and the now demolished Sorrento Maternity Hospital where I was born] and enjoying an old-world picture. For, as we dip down a sudden descent, we notice the gable ends of an ancient timbered home, and Sarehole Mill by its placid pool, and reach the Cole with its water splashes and rustic footbridges.

    "A pretty spot is this, and in the 'bits' to be found after we have crossed at the second water-splash form many a subject for brush and camera. At this second footbridge we can, if we like, to tramp through the fields and climb the styles, go further along, but it is best to cross here. And then we rise until we reach a blacksmith's shop on the left, and a half-timbered house in front of us, when we bear to the right. Travelling rapidly downhill we rise again to skirt Yardley Pool [I think this is really Trittiford Pool - Tittiford as it was then, note!], and in half a mile or so we see on our right-hand, overlooking a shaded pool thickly fringed with willows, the remains of a storm-beaten windmill [which must be the one that was cleared - blown-up - in the mid-1950s, as I remember]..."

    Tolkien's Playground

    Phew! "Water splashes and rustic footbridges...". In 1903, my own grandparents were living not too far away, at what is now the cottage outside Billesley Police Station opposite Swanshurst Park! The "Police Station" was then a solicitor's house. And not far from the windmill mentioned above and near Trittiford Pool was Billesley Farm, long since replaced by the Billesley council housing estate. The farmhouse was actually situated in what is now Trittiford Road, on the site of the local community hall.

    And, in 1903, it was the very time that the later famous author Tolkien was playing in his 'playground' at Sarehole Mill. He is known to have returned 30 years later and been appalled at what he then found. He was interviewed much later in his life, and described what he found at Sarehole: Click here for the full article. It appeared in The Guardian, Saturday December 28, 1991.

    Click here for an annotated 1887 map showing this detail.

    Click here for more history about Swanshurst;
    Click here for more history about Billesley.